Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

excerpts from Holdfast

If you didn’t read my little intro to this marvelous book yesterday, please scroll back and read those remarks. It is a fine book and it means a lot to me, as does her exceptional other titles. (I gave a link to her website, too, so you could read longer excerpts and view photos of her wild places.) There are some of you wilderness-type-wannabees that will enjoy the vicarious thrill of reading such expert and glorious writing about nature. Even if you aren’t wild at heart, this is a sweet and good-hearted book, important and insightful. Like her others I mention, it’s a keeper.

From the forward:

In the green, light-shot sea along the Oregon coast, bullwhip kelp lean toward land on the incoming tides and swirl seaward as the water falls away, never letting go of their grip on the ocean floor. What keeps each plant in place is a holdfast, a fist of knobby fingers that stick to rock with a glue the plant makes from sunshine and salt water, an invisible bond strong enough to hold against all but the worst winter gales. The holdfast is a structure biologists don’t entirely understand. Philosophers have not even begun to try.

In blue, halogen-lit places of constant movement, so many of us live in a time of separations---the comings and goings at the turning of the century, the airport embraces, the X-ray rooms, loneliness, notes left by the phone. Children grow tall, then restless. Grandparents grow wise, then forget their children’s names. My work takes me from place to place---Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, British Columbia, Oregon again. Everywhere I go, I pass people who have come from someplace else. We all have left so much behind. Sunday dinners. Front porches. Small certainties. Knowledge of when to plant tomatoes, and where to buy string, and what to do when someone dies. Secret places of safety and meaning---a worn bank beside the creek or a patch of hollyhocks, scratchy with pollen and bees.

We professors, who should be studying connection, study distinctions instead. In white laboratories, biologists find it easy to forget that they are natural philosophers. Philosophers, for their part, pluck ideas out of contexts like worms out of holes, and hold them dangling and drying in bright lights. When people lock themselves in their houses at night and seal the windows shut to keep out storms, it is possible to forget, sometimes for years and years, that human beings are part of the natural world. We are only reminded, if we are reminded at all, by a sadness we can’t explain and a longing for a place that feels like home.

Sitting on a boulder whitewashed by western gulls, watching the sliding turf, I resolve to study holdfasts. What will we cling to, in the confusion of the tides? What structures of connection will hold us in place? How will we find an attachment to the natural world that makes us feel safe and fully alive, here, at the edge of the water?

From: Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World Kathleen Dean Moore (The Lyons Press) $14.95. Order here.